After 25 years in the workforce, it’s easy to grow complacent. I’ve worked hard to build a set of skills that’s kept me gainfully employed and helped support my family. It would be too easy to say that I know enough to get by comfortably for the rest of my career. However, that would be a mistake. If I am to reflect back when I’m retired and feel good about what I have achieved, I must continue to seek the pang of uneasiness that comes from challenging myself to learn something new, constantly exploring the unknown, and allowing others to challenge my opinions.
That is why I will continue to participate in continuing education and professional networking events. Love them or hate them, I find myself leaving a better, smarter person each time.
Let me start with a confession. I’m an introvert. I do best with social interactions in small groups, and professional networking events rank right up there with having my fingernails pulled out.
So, why do I go? In short, I owe it to myself, my career, and my company/colleagues. Introvert or not, I have a strong internal drive to consistently better myself. I want to be a smarter person; I want better career opportunities, and I want to be a better contributor to my team and company. Above all, I want my family to be proud of what I can accomplish.
While I can read for knowledge all day long, I believe I can only truly consider myself schooled in a subject when I can defend it in a public setting and understand how others in my industry are putting it into daily practice. Work environments don’t always allow, nor would it be appropriate to battle test every new concept and idea I read about in a professional journal. Believe me, I’ve known those people, and it’s a sure way to lose the trust of my colleagues quickly.
Professional events are the single most effective way to engage with my professional community, stay up to speed on trending industry topics, learn new strategies to tackle organizational challenges, and maybe most important, present and defend the thought leadership my company and I bring to the community.
Networking, in this way, opens the doors of new ideas and new opportunities for my career and my company, so despite any ill-comfort I experience by pushing my introvert tendencies aside for a few hours each month, I will continue to engage and support and participate in the professional communities and events around me.
I hope that I can serve as a guide to those that empathize with my desire to stay home. Take a bold step to helping yourself and your organization by committing to a professional event soon.